Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg

Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg

by Joshua Rubenstein
     
 

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Rubenstein uncovers the man behind the controversies, the gifted writer whose life embodied all the tragic dilemmas of a Russian Jewish intellectual under totalitarianism.

 
Journalist, novelist, and poet Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was one of the most important Russian cultural figures of the 20th century. A political exile from czarist Russia,

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Overview

Rubenstein uncovers the man behind the controversies, the gifted writer whose life embodied all the tragic dilemmas of a Russian Jewish intellectual under totalitarianism.

 
Journalist, novelist, and poet Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was one of the most important Russian cultural figures of the 20th century. A political exile from czarist Russia, he spent years in Paris as a bohemian poet and later became a correspondent for Izvestia in Western Europe. He was one of the few distinguished Soviet writers to survive Stalin. Ehrenburg’s 1954 novel The Thaw lent its name to the critical period following Stalin’s death. His memoir People, Years, Life outraged the Kremlin in the 1960s by describing a “conspiracy of silence” that had prevailed under the dictator.
Ehrenburg was a young Bolshevik who turned anti-Communist and then two decades later became a spokesman for Stalin. He was an assimilated Jew who fought anti-Semitism and a Russian patriot who was both mistrusted by orthodox Communists and denounced by Hitler as his main enemy. As a Jew, he was said to have betrayed his people; as a writer, his talent; as a man, his conscience. Yet, as Joshua Rubenstein shows, Ehrenburg retained a measure of integrity. He helped other writers, including Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak. He battled censorship and championed European art in Moscow. His circle of friends included Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Diego Rivera, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Babel, and André Malraux.
In vivid detail, Tangled Loyalties draws extensively on new material from Russian archives, from Ehrenburg’s private correspondence, and from interviews with scores of family members and friends. This penetrating biography will challenge our assumptions about collaboration, assimilation, dissent, and moral survival.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A convincing, judicious, and enjoyable biography.” –New York Times Book Review

“A solid and eloquent work.” –New Republic

New York Times Book Review
A convincing, judicious and enjoyable biography.
NY Times Book Review
A convincing, judicious and enjoyable biography.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rubenstein's superb biography of Soviet journalist, poet and novelist Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) probes the moral complexity of a major cultural figure. Ehrenburg joined the Bolshevik underground at age 15. Imprisoned two years later, he fled Czarist Russia for Paris, where he met Lenin, whom he ridiculed in a satirical journal. The disillusioned ex-radical denounced the Bolshevik revolution in his poetry and became a cafe crony of Picasso, Modigliani and Chagall. But as an Izvestia correspondent in Paris during the 1930s, Ehrenburg became a key component of Stalin's propaganda machine. Yet Rubenstein, an Amnesty International director and a fellow at Harvard's Russian Research Center, maintains that Ehrenburg's courageous, even outspoken stances against Soviet repression far outweigh the compromises and silences of a career played out under dictatorship. He argues that Ehrenburg's subversive novel, The Thaw (1954), helped launch de-Stalinization, and he pressed for the rehabilitation of Isaac Babel, Osip Mandelstam and Marina Tsvetaeva. An assimilated Jew, Ehrenburg, in a personal letter of protest to Stalin, fearlessly opposed the dictator's planned round-up and deportation of the Soviet Union's Jewish citizens to Siberia and Birobidzhan in 1953.
Booknews
Drawing upon new material from Russian archives, interviews, and letters, Amnesty International USA's Rubenstein (Russian studies, Harvard U.) provides a chronology (1891-1967) and insight into the controversial Soviet Jewish writer who some say sold out to Stalin, yet was active in the Soviet human rights movement and denounced by Khrushchev. Originally published by Basic Books. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780817309633
Publisher:
University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
02/28/1999
Series:
Judaic Studies Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

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Joshua Rubenstein is the Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA and an Associate at the DavisCenter for Russian Studies at HarvardUniversity. He has written for The Nation, The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, among other publications.

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